Indo-Pakistani Wars (Kashmir) – The Unsolved Conflicts

After the departure of the British in August 1947, India and Pakistan became successor states. The partition of the British Indian Empire into India and Pakistan left a legacy of mutual discord that is felt to the present day.

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India’s foreign policy after independence was centered around world issues; relations with India dominated Pakistan’s security concerns. Kashmir remained the major bone of contention between the two countries. The state of Jammu and Kashmir was Muslim-dominated, with Hindus and others constituting about 48 percent of the population. It had boundaries with both India and Pakistan. The ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh, vacillated over whether to join India or Pakistan. Pakistan sponsored an attack on the state on October 22, 1947, leading Hari Singh to sign the Instrument of Accession with the governor general of independent India, Lord Mountbatten on October 26, 1947. The next day it was accepted by India. The sovereignty of Kashmir became a source of conflict, as Pakistan did not recognize the merger of its state with India. India agreed to Hari Singh’s request for military assistance after accepting the Instrument of Accession, and thus the first war between India and Pakistan began.


India airlifted reinforcements and deployed the 161st Infantry Brigade into Kashmir. Pakistan had occupied about one-third of the state and named it Azad Kashmir (Free Kashmir). In late December the war turned in favor of Pakistan when it gained control of the Punch, Mirpur, and Jhanger regions. By 1948 a stalemate had developed. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru (1889–1964) of India took the matter to the United Nations (UN) despite some opposition in the cabinet, which saw Kashmir as an internal problem of India. The terms of the cease-fire outlined in the UN resolution of August 13, 1948, called for withdrawal of Pakistani troops and the holding of a plebiscite to determine the desire of the Kashmir people. On December 31, 1948, a cease-fire was declared, and the demarcation line after the end of hostilities became the line of control (LOC) between the two countries. The Kashmir valley, Jammu, and Ladakh came under Indian control, and the state became the only Muslim majority province of secular India. Swat, Gilgat, Hunza, Nagar, and Baltistan constituted Pakistanadministered Kashmir.

Continuing Conflict

Neither India nor Pakistan adhered to the August resolutions, and the conflict over Kashmir continued. Pakistan insisted on a plebiscite, while India demanded Pakistan’s withdrawal from territory it controlled (Azad Kashmir). In February the Constituent Assembly of the state of Jammu and Kashmir ratified accession to India, and, after two years, the state became one of the provinces of the Indian Union.

After a boundary agreement between China and Pakistan was negotiated in March 1963, the situation became still more complicated because China gained a large portion of the Trans-Karakoram Tract, ceded by Pakistan. The defeat of India in the 1962 October War by China encouraged Pakistan to enter another round of war. It was widely believed that hawkish elements in Pakistan began the war so as to snatch an easy victory from a humiliated India after the Sino-Indian War. The second Indo-Pakistan conflict began after a series of border clashes starting in March 1965. The border skirmishes, which began in the Rann of Kutch region of Gujarat, were contained in June after British mediation. A tribunal gave Pakistan 350 square miles of territory in 1968. The president, Muhammad Ayub Khan (1907–74), ordered Operation Gibraltar in August 1964 and sent infiltrators to Indian-held Kashmir.


The skirmishes between the forces of India and Pakistan began on August 6 and escalated into a large battle nine days later. The Indian army captured the strategic Haji Pir Pass inside Pakistan to talling 710 square miles of Pakistani territory, while Pakistan occupied 210 square miles of Indian territory. The UN Security Council called for a cease-fire on September 22 and the war ended the next day.

A meeting between the prime minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri, and Ayub Khan was arranged in the city of Tashkent by Soviet premier Alexey Kosygin. Under the Tashkent Agreement of January 10, the armies of both India and Pakistan went back to the positions they had held before August 5. Both agreed to resolve their disputes by peaceful means and not to interfere in each others’ internal affairs.

The Tashkent declaration proved to be a temporary respite in the deteriorating relationship between India and Pakistan. Ayub was blamed for Pakistan’s debacle and Pakistan’s foreign minister, Zulfikar Bhutto, resigned. Internally, East Pakistan was simmering with discontent; its leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, criticized the government for neglecting the security of East Pakistan at the time of the 1965 war. When East Pakistan declared its independence, the Pakistani army retaliated with brutality against the people of East Pakistan.

Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi declared thesupport of her government of Bangladesh (the name for independent East Pakistan). Next, India signed a 20-year Treaty of Peace, Friendship, and Cooperation with the Soviet Union in August 1971 to checkmate either Chinese or U.S. interference in case of a war with Pakistan and gave support to Bangladesh’s revolt.


On December 3 the Pakistani air force began preemptive air strikes against eight airfields in East Pakistan. India retaliated and began an air, land, and sea attack on Pakistani forces in the east, marching toward Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. More than 1 million people in Bangladesh perished before Pakistan’s army surrendered in Dhaka. Bhutto and Gandhi signed the Shimla Accords on July 2, 1972, by which both countries recognized the line of control (LOC) after the war of 1971. India and Pakistan resolved to refrain from the use of force against each other and to solve disputes bilaterally without third-party mediation.

Starting in the mid-1980s, a sizable number of the people of Kashmir expressed a desire for independence and received support from Pakistan. Human rights abuses by the terrorists and the Indian army drew international attention. In 1998 both India and Pakistan conducted nuclear tests and their relations became more volatile. In spite of this, both prime ministers, Atal Bihari Vajpayee of India and Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan, signed the Lahore Declaration for solving the Kashmir dispute peacefully.

In February 1999 a war that would last for 73 days began on May 8 on the Kargil ridges, situated about 120 miles from Srinagar, the capital of Indian Kashmir. Both armies had to fight in the inhospitable terrain of the Kargil mountains. On July 14 both India and Pakistan ended military operations without boundary changes.

Kashmir has remained an unresolved problem between the two nations. It has assumed dangerous proportions with the potential for a nuclear conflict. However, summit talks have begun between leaders of both nations.

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